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tv   Dateline NBC  NBC  September 10, 2010 9:00pm-10:00pm EDT

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he's cold. >> natalee's someone i met one night and i barely know her. >> surprisingly direct. >> i lied many times and told stories. >> and sometimes even seems remorseful. >> i feel really bad for the family to lose their daughter. >> tonight the man suspected in natalee holloway's disappearance. >> she was dead. >> and accused of killing stephany flores. >> translator: he wrapped his hands around her neck and started choking her. >> joran van der sloot as you've never heard him, talking about his strange five-year odyssey. >> i really feel guilty for -- for everything. >> an exclusive primetime interview from prison. >> it's a whole web of problems. but i created all of them myself. >> who is the man spinning this web? >> a dangerous man with two faces. kindly but dangerous.
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>> the dangerous faces. the chilling words of joran van der sloot. >> i know it's not right. i know it's not okay. but that's the way it was. >> joran van der sloot behind bars. also tonight -- >> i was so panicked. >> it's too hard to go on. >> the police were going to be looking for us. >> a mother of two. desperate, hiding, running from the law and her ex-husband. >> see there? >> a cross-cultural marriage. once happy. >> hello, mom. we're in turkey now. >> then gone sour. >> every e-mail just kept getting worse and worse and worse. >> a young mother convinced her husband was a danger to their daughters. but a foreign court awarded him custody. >> how were they going to do that? take them away from me. >> she grabbed the girls and fled. >> put them on that boat, and they took off. >> now she was a fugitive, accused of kidnapping. >> i go back to turkey, i go back to prison.
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>> but what caused her fear? was it her ex-husband or dark secrets in her own family's past? >> we did have some abuse in our family. >> and what will happen to her children? >> we have two little girls that are totally innocent. >> we have two little girls that are totally innocent. >> "on the run." captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening, and welcome to "dateline." i'm ann curry. our story tonight begins with a devoted mother of two, an american living overseas, and her foreign-born husband. but what started as a vague suspicion soon turned into a dark fear that would destroy their marriage and turn her into an international fugitive, on the run for years with the two little girls she believed were in danger. but were they? here's keith morrison. >> reporter: these are in a way that's bizarrely literal stolen
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moments. in a world where doors slam shut and fear is her daily companion. >> i don't know what to do. >> reporter: will authority come calling? will the next knock at the door expose them? and what will happen then? >> they could prosecute me if they found out the whole story. >> reporter: the whole story? she means the headlong flight from the law, the night crossing, the fake names, the terror of police. >> there's a cop looking at me. okay. >> reporter: and the self-imposed exile, with its secret codes, its impossible demands, and her particular hope for the two little girls who are the reason at the heart of the whole disturbing puzzle. >> how were they going to do that? take them away from me. >> reporter: point your light in that dark place. what might you see? this is the story of life on the run and the crucial heartbreaking question behind
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it. what answer would you give? the only way you'll know is this, to begin at the beginning. and that would be the love story. >> i was immediately attracted to him. >> her name is linda. >> i was working in the same department where he was studying for his ph.d. >> reporter: her mother, karen polenti, saw it right away. >> she really had a twinkle in her eye. she fell for him immediately. >> reporter: karen, who knew her daughter linda so well. >> well, we traveled together. >> linda says it's quite nice. >> it is nice. >> i felt very close to my daughter. >> reporter: like sisters almost. so karen was proud of linda's college degree, as was her father, sam. they happily supported their daughter's decision to return to detroit, michigan's wayne state university. >> she was also interested in environment. but for some reason she went into another field.
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the cytotechnology. >> reporter: so she could read lab tests, work in cancer research. but the reason we're here is, as we say, the love story. >> i always remember linda saying i'm not going to get married. >> reporter: it was her lab partner who saw what happened, how linda suddenly changed. >> she started making mention of this guy. and she was excited about it. >> reporter: it was a cross-cultural romance. two budding scientists. he was a visiting ph.d. student from turkey. ozgur yaman. but after they met, well, linda at lab class was not quite the same anymore. >> she just seemed to have that extra step in her -- you know, like "i'm in love." you know? >> reporter: it lasted, too. they dated three whole years while they worked on their degrees. linda's mother, karen, would say appropriately good things about her daughter's new boyfriend. in public at least. >> i thought he was fine. he was polite, friendly. he was very nice. when i met him.
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>> reporter: and then in 2000 as freshly minted graduates they wed. there was a ceremony in dearborn, michigan. and then another one in ankara, turkey. how was it being married to someone from a completely different culture, different kind of background? way different way of growing up. different place. >> i thought, well, here's a person who's well educated, likes to travel. we have similar interests. we were happy. >> reporter: so now they were ozgur and linda yaman. they settled down in dearborn. and two years after their wedding a baby girl arrived. we'll call her amy, though that isn't her real name. >> i was very proud to hold her right after she was born. >> reporter: and the whole world was open to their little family. they didn't have to stay in dearborn. not when more exotic notions beckoned. >> when i first met him, i didn't know anything about turkey. i just thought it seemed like an
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interesting place and a different thing to do with my life. >> reporter: so just before amy's first birthday linda had an announcement for her family. actually, two. one, she was pregnant again. there would be another baby. and two, ozgur had been offered a prestigious teaching job at an important university back in turkey. they'd be moving overseas. the news was not exactly what linda's mother, karen, had been hoping to hear. >> that's not something that i really liked the thought of. and my first granddaughter, my only granddaughter, actually. >> reporter: but if karen was unhappy about the move, linda, as her friends couldn't help but see, was excited. >> she just had this great attitude about it. i want to experience this culture. she really was excited about it. >> reporter: and so the adventure began. >> hello, mom. we're in turkey now. >> reporter: new land, new culture, new friends, new family. >> see you later.
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>> reporter: and what would happen there? well, that gets to the dark heart of it, doesn't it? >> i remember one time he said to me, "i didn't marry you for your looks. i married you because i thought you were a nice person. now i see you're not a nice person." >> reporter: so how it can turn. intrigue, excitement, and then a moment of suspicion, a whiff of scandal, and happy anticipation dissolves in a private horror. coming up -- linda hears an unspeakable accusation against her husband. >> she said, you know, i'm 100% sure of what i saw. >> reporter: when "on the run" continues. ♪ walk like an angel [ laughs ] ♪ talk like an angel ♪ but i got wise [ grunting ] ♪ you're the devil in disguise [ male announcer ] we put it through over 5,000 quality tests... so it'll stand up to just about anything.
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hello. i'm linda. and this is my wonderful
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husband, ozgur. >> reporter: on the face of it, ozgur and linda yaman's new life in ankara, turkey seemed, well, happy. it was busy, exciting. big new job for him. brand new country for her. along with a 2-year-old and another baby on the way. so it was stressful, too. especially as she discovered this living abroad thing wasn't going to be so easy. >> i was suffering from culture shock when i first got there. >> reporter: turkey. buzzing all around her. in words and habits and foods she simply couldn't fathom. >> and they're having cold yogurt soup, which i don't eat. >> it was difficult. and then, you know, going from an english-speaking country to a country where i couldn't speak the language, i couldn't understand. >> reporter: linda's mother, karen, flew to turkey, spent a month there, helping her adjust. >> she seemed happy. trying to settle in.
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>> reporter: but when karen went home, linda says, she sank into a crushing loneliness. she was pregnant and overwhelmed by even the simplest things. >> just going out to the store, you know, grocery stopping. >> reporter: to make matters worse, linda says, it seemed to me that ozgur, so busy at the university, didn't understand her anxiety. >> i really felt that i should have the support of my husband during this really difficult time. >> reporter: frustrations boiled. >> do you remember what we talked about? >> reporter: fights were more frequent. >> no, no, no. >> yes, it is. >> he was telling me, you don't deserve to be married, you didn't deserve me. my mom, she noticed it. she said, "linda, he's not supportive to you here in turkey." >> reporter: she opened up in e-mails to her friend, mary tracy bee. >> she really had a really difficult time just really communicating. it just wasn't working out as smoothly as i know she had hoped and planned for. every e-mail just kept getting
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worse and worse and worse. >> reporter: still, in august 2003, when linda and ozgur welcomed their second baby into the world, a girl we'll call emily, life seemed much better again. ozgur seemed to relish the role of doting father. ozgur's college buddy, mike witten. >> ozgur was there, assisting linda in taking care of the children. he loved his kids very much. >> reporter: and then, the event. the incident, if that's what it was. though when it happened, if it happened, no one said a thing. >> we had gone for a family vacation. >> reporter: baby emily was five months old. amy 2 1/2. it was a trip home to michigan. and -- this is important. they took a brief side trip. >> for two days and one night we went down to missouri to visit my grandmother. and while we were there i had to run out. and while i was out, my husband was there with the kids and my grandmother.
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>> reporter: and now came the central moment in our story, the one that would change every bit of family history that came after it. ozgur at home caring for the children. helen, linda's 82-year-old grandmother, at home with them. and that's when helen watched through an open doorway, she would say later, as ozgur changed amy's diaper, amy the toddler, then 2 1/2. and if only there had been a picture just then. >> reporter: linda and ozgur completed their visit, went back to turkey. and then, three months later, three months of torment, said helen, she told linda's mother, karen, what she thought she saw. ozgur as he changed that diaper seemed to take a long time. it seemed to her inappropriate. was her great granddaughter being sexually molested? >> i wanted to tell my daughter as soon as possible. and i wanted my daughter to keep an eye on him to see what was going on. and i felt that my daughter
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needed to know so that she could protect her children. >> reporter: karen phoned linda, now back in ankara, turkey. >> i was thrown into a state of confusion. and i didn't know what to think. >> reporter: couldn't be true. could it? >> it's very hard for a mother. i was very torn. >> reporter: linda decided not to say a word to her husband. instead, she talked to her grandmother, whose memory with the passage of time now seemed quite certain. >> i asked her, you know, are you sure of what you saw? and she said, you know, i'm 100% sure of what i saw. >> reporter: so linda started watching. watching like a hawk. as ozgur interacted with his daughters. and before long her own suspicions began to grow. more than once, said linda, when she left ozgur alone with their girls, she returned to find the eldest daughter's clothes had been changed. was that a sign of something? and, more disturbing, she actually saw ozgur showing signs of sexual arousal when he held
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2 1/2-year-old amy. >> everything kind of ended up -- i got really afraid. >> did you take either of your daughters to a doctor in turkey to get an opinion about this? >> not in turkey. >> reporter: she contacted the u.s. embassy in ankara for help. the embassy's advice -- go home. consult an expert in the u.s. and so she did. >> i was just feeling like i can't protect my children from my husband there in the house. >> reporter: so one morning soon after linda waited until ozgur had left for work, then rushed to the airport with the girls, flew back to michigan. that evening ozgur arrive home from the university to discover his family had vanished. he waited, increasingly frantic, and finally called her parents' house in michigan, unaware that linda had taken amy to a child advocacy center called the care house for tests. and when ozgur got linda on the phone, she told him what her grandmother claimed to have seen.
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>> he said, "oh, linda, no, no, no, no, no. it's a big misunderstanding. certainly i would never do something like that. no way." you know. >> reporter: he was angry, too. he told her come home, he said. instead she stayed in michigan, waiting for the results of those tests. and inconclusive. the examiners found no physical evidence to indicate sexual abuse. but, they told linda, that didn't mean it didn't happen, either. >> they said they couldn't rule out -- >> inconclusive. >> -- sexual abuse. it was a very emotional time. very confusing. >> reporter: confusing? oh, yes. who could she believe? what could she do in her mother, karen, insisted the allegation was true, begged her not to return to ozgur. and he swore it was not true, pleaded, come home. >> i loved him still. i missed him. you know, one day with him and then the next day gone. >> reporter: and so finally she decided over her mother's
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objections she returned to turkey. and -- >> that's a decision that i regret to this day. to this moment. >> reporter: and a decision that would leave her lost in a legal and emotional nightmare. >> i was a crazy person. you know, saying that he was sexually abusing the girls and i was completely wrong. (birds ch) like strolling in an orchard ♪ is this my husband? awesome cool hat, mom oh my perfect kids alright fourteen ninety nine i totally wear hats ♪ how are you getting to a happier place? running there? dancing there?
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i loved him. i missed him. i was torn. >> reporter: linda was in turmoil. had she accepted too easily her grandmother's accusations and her mother karen's now undisguised dislike of her husband, ozgur? in fact, after many phone calls home to ozgur linda decided her grandmother and mother were quite simply wrong. there had been no sex abuse. and so in june 2004 she returned to ozgur in turkey. in defiance of her mother's repeated and very vocal objections. >> i was worried about her, actually, because she'd already accused him and i didn't know what would happen to her. >> reporter: but now back home with ozgur linda was convinced her mother was the problem, not her husband. >> he said it's your mother, it's your grandmother, it's nothing to do with you. >> reporter: she agreed with
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ozgur and abruptly severed all ties with her mother and set out to restore her marriage. and that's when a secret window opened, a opened into a sometimes troubled family past. it came in the form of an angry letter linda wrote to her mother, karen's therapist. intensely private, of course. or so she thought. a few selected quotes about her mother, karen. "she told me she hated my husband from the beginning and that she wished she had killed him before we were married." "she would scream at me if i ever expressed doubts that he was a molester. she would do this in front of my two little kids and throw or break things, and they would cry." why do her mother, karen, think those things? because of a dark history of sex abuse involving her grandmother, karen's father, and a female member of the family. the abuse went on for years, she wrote, and was so traumatizing for karen that it made her paranoid, inclined to see sexual
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abuse even where none existed. >> with all the stress and emotional tension i bought into that. >> reporter: still, linda says, she was uneasy. so she pleaded with ozgur to protect the girls from anything that might be construed as sex abuse. >> ozgur, please make me feel comfortable. i was hoping things would get better. >> reporter: ozgur complied. or seemed to. >> he told me, basically, you know, you have to put these thoughts out of your head of this abuse or we just can't continue. >> reporter: and then another moment which would alter all that came next. it was evening two months later, she said. she lifted amy from ozgur's lap and saw what looked like male arousal. but ozgur said it was normal. nothing to do with amy. insisted he wasn't aroused. linda didn't buy it. >> it didn't get into his mind that this kind of behavior is not okay. he knew it was bothering me.
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and he thought it was okay. it's okay. >> reporter: then, says linda, little amy began to tell her disturbing things, complained that her pee-pee hurt and that it was her father who hurt her. >> i confronted him about this and he said absolutely no way. >> reporter: but now linda's opinion did a complete reversal. she decided that her mother and grandmother must have been right after all. and she remembered the advice those childcare people back in michigan had given her. document your suspicions. so linda began following ozgur around the house with a videocamera, taping his interactions with the girls. >> mommy got orders today to videotape. >> reporter: and he, furious, afraid she'd leave again and take the children with her, demanded linda hand over the girls' u.s. passports. >> as a show of good faith i said, you know, here. i put the passports in his father's safe, and i said i'm not leaving, let's deal with this in turkey. >> reporter: but it was too
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late. the marriage was over. at the end of 2004, six months after linda's return, ozgur moved out. >> it was a terrible situation. he's saying i'm going to take the children away from you. and that was this major fear. that's when i started looking for help. how can i prove this? >> reporter: linda took amy to a child psychologist in istanbul, who she claims gave herr a conclusive answer. >> your daughter was definitely abused by her father. >> reporter: but then, linda says, the psychologist spoke to ozgur, heard his side of the story. >> and all of a sudden there was a huge change in what she said. she said, "i can't write that report the way i was going to write it now." >> reporter: which mattered a great deal because now they were in divorce court, where linda says she couldn't afford to pay a translator. so she struggled to understand that ozgur was asking for custody of the girls and was claiming that linda was
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delusional, even schizophrenic, not fit to be a mother. >> i was a crazy person, you know, saying that he was sexually abusing the girls and it was completely wrong. >> reporter: then ozgur introduced that letter linda sent to her mother's therapist, the one that revealed the family history of sex abuse. but don't worry, her lawyer told her, the mother always gets custody. he was wrong. >> the turkish judge expressed really strong bias. he said to my husband, "what's your job?" he said, "i'm a professor." he said, "how old is the child?" he said 2. so he had this look on his face like -- it can't be. >> reporter: custody to ozgur. so was it over? well, not even close. linda immediately filed an appeal and was allowed to retain custody of the girls while she waited. and a year and a half into an increasingly vicious contest, linda faced the judge of the
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court of appeals. it was decision day again. >> here i was standing there, no translat translator, you know, and i get this uneasy feeling that something's going on that's important. and so he started making his judgment. and i wasn't quite sure what was going on. >> reporter: and she felt her world fall apart. a second court had now ruled custody to ozgur. >> how were they going to do that, take them away from me? >> reporter: but it still wasn't over. linda was allowed one last appeal, this time all the way up to the turkish supreme court. and again, during the long wait the girls lived with linda. except, as you'll see, linda and her mother, karen, were not just idly waiting. nor was the mysterious man they were calling. >> the grandmother kept calling me. i said, well, don't do anything crazy. >> reporter: but was it crazy, what they did?
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or was it even the right thing to do? >> i told them i would get the little girls out of turkey. and later on "dateline" -- an exclusive interview. the prime suspect in the disappearance of natalee holloway and the killing of stephany flores. joran van der sloot speaks out. >> i myself lied many times, and i was really good at making up stories. >> reporter: what is his story now? ♪ [ female announcer ] good friends never run out of things to talk about... and during endless shrimp at red lobster,
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in july 2007 the supreme court of turkey announced it had a final verdict in the custody case of ozgur and linda yaman. >> i was so panicked. >> reporter: the daughter linda accused ozgur of abusing was now 5 years old. the decision? 4 out of 5 judges ruled for ozgur. >> i felt that the system had totally failed the girls in protecting them. >> reporter: the doubt she'd once felt about her mother's accusations about her own observations gone now. >> i was 100% sure that the abuse had happened. >> reporter: in a panic linda called her parents back in michigan. >> i was very concerned that immediately the children would go to him right then. >> they had to get out of there quick. >> reporter: and in fact, linda's mother, karen, had already put a drastic plan in
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motion, which involved this man. >> what are parents like when they come to you looking for help? >> they come to us in desperation. >> reporter: karen had gone to her computer, typed in the words "child recovery," and out popped a name. tampa-based gus zamora, a former army ranger who specializes in something he calls snatchback. he finds abducted children, returns them to their rightful parents. and when karen told her story, says gus, he just assumed that linda had legal custody. so he told karen he'd do it, get linda and the girls out of turkey. it would cost, he said, about $70,000. and so these retired parents remortgaged their house, wired the cash to zamora. >> i told them that i would need about a week to prepare and i would get the little girls out of turkey. >> you knew it would be breaking the law. >> i knew that. but whatever consequences there were going to be for me, that stuff is not as important as protecting those girls. >> reporter: so in late july of
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2007 gus flew to turkey and began putting together linda's escape plan. >> we had contacts in bulgaria. i had a vast network of associates in eastern europe that would do anything for money. >> reporter: the plan? drive linda and the girls to turkey's northern border with bulgaria. they could be out of turkey in 48 hours. but they'd have to move fast. >> i called linda. everything's ready. and she said, "oh, well, i can't go." i said what do you main can't go? she goes, well, i can't be in the car to go with the children when they cross the border. >> the mother who said she so desperately wanted to escape her ex-husband and rescue her kids now seemed paralyzed by fear, said gus. >> and it kind of shocked me. we're stuck in turkey with the mother who refused to go with the children. we couldn't figure it out. >> reporter: gus called linda's mother, karen, back in michigan. >> she's in a tizzy demanding her daughter's going to do what her daughter's going to do to rescue the children. i thought somebody needs to be in control because linda was lethargic, she was afraid.
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>> reporter: frustrated, gus started working on a plan b, a plan he said was much riskier, that would take longer. >> we were networking a water exit to greece. >> reporter: that's when karen flew to turkey, to give the plan a hurry. waiting she told gus was not an option. >> the grandmother said we're really worried, she wants to take the children for ten days and we're afraid once he takes them he won't give them back. >> reporter: plan b wasn't ready, gus told them, sit tight, wait, but the women seemed panicked he said and suddenly without any green light from gus linda and karen snatched up the girls and took off by bus. and soon after ozgur drove past linda's house and it looked vacant. he called her cell phone. >> he had called me and said, "what's going on? are you leaving?" i said, "no, no, no, we're coming back. you know, coming back. for the weekend." >> reporter: but they didn't return. days grew into a week, then two, then three. ozgur called day and night.
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she didn't pick up. he must be on to them. anxiety was a fever now. >> i thought the police were going to be looking for us. were people going to be looking for us? >> reporter: all nerves now and in hiding the women called gus, begged him to hurry. >> the boat exit was probably a week out. >> reporter: patience, he told them. act normal. >> there were some times when i was sure somebody was coming. >> reporter: linda disguised herself, cut and dyed her hair. but one last snag in gus's escape plan. he couldn't find a boat to rent. so instead he just bought one. >> they wanted 12,000 for the boat. i went, okay. you know? work your magic. get us the boat. >> reporter: and finally, in the dark of night, after five frightened weeks in hiding, they gathered up what they could carry and hurried to a local harbor. >> put them on that boat, and they took off. >> reporter: 40 minutes, a rough crossing, in the black of night, linda said, with two little girls hidden in the bowels of the boat to a small greek island
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miles from the turkish coast. >> i was extremely relieved to be out of turkey. it was an incredible feeling. >> reporter: but remember, only linda had her u.s. passport. ozgur had the girls' passports in his safe in turkey. >> is there going to be somebody checking documents? are they going to find out what's really going on? >> reporter: passports were the next step, said gus, and he saw them off on the next leg of their escape, a 12-hour ride on a tourist ferry to athens. linda was to head straight to the u.s. embassy. >> i told them you can't take anything with you that's turkish. all your documents, your i.d. cards and everything, you give them to us. once you get to the embassy, tell them that you lost your passport, you're on vacation, you live in turkey. >> reporter: but it wouldn't be quite as easy as that. even though linda obtained a new report, which concluded based on interviews with amy that she had been sexually abused, the u.s. embassy in athens soon discovered linda was a fugitive from a legitimate turkish court order, which granted ozgur sole
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custody of the girls. so it refused to issue the girls new u.s. passports. linda and karen phoned gus. >> i go, well, here's the deal, linda, you're out, you have your children. she goes, well, the lady in the embassy told me we'd better find a place to live because they're not giving us passports. >> reporter: and that, says gus-s when he realized, the women may not have been exactly straight with him. all this time, he told us, he thought linda had legal custody of her girls. had he known the truth at the beginning, he says? he wouldn't have taken the case. >> we were in this catch 22. we didn't want to pass judgment and not help them and send the children back to an abusive environment. this goes back to the old saying that the client is always the enemy. >> reporter: and that was the last gus heard from linda, a woman now perpetually on the run. >> panic started to set in. >> reporter: she made her way through the cities of southern europe europe, appealing for help from u.s. agencies along the way, and
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finally rejected yet again, she realized she had no choice. if she wanted to keep those girls, she would have to disappear. perhaps for a very long time. >> reporter: she was now stateless. homeless. >> is there going to be a warning out about me kidnapping the kids? >> reporter: and a wanted fugitive. coming up -- learning how to live a life on the run. >> whenever we would go through a border, i would get very nervous. very tense. adrenaline pumping. >> reporter: when "dateline" continues. [ male announcer ] at pizza hut, everyone loved our $10 any pizza deal
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linda yaman, daughters in tow, was on the run, a fugitive from a turkish court, from an ex-husband she'd accused of sexual abuse. she was a woman terrified of border guards, of police, of capture. >> i put the girls a little foot area where you put your feet and put some pillows -- >> actually get down on the floor with something over top of them so they can't be seen? >> mm-hmm. yeah. >> reporter: she's been on the road for months, ever since the u.s. embassy in greece denied her request for u.s. passports for the girls. >> drove one way rental. whenever we would go through a border, you know, i would get very nervous, very tense, adrenaline pumping. >> reporter: she started north toward albania and kept driving through the coastal cities of europe. three long months on the road. until they arrived here and stopped running.
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but still in hiding? oh, yes. >> see there? there's a cop looking at me. he was just wondering why i was backing up. >> reporter: "dateline" first met linda and her girls, by then 6 and 8, late last year. here was their apartment. a minuscule secret place in a small western european town. we agreed not to reveal which one. and here they were stuck, wanted by authorities in turkey, unable to return to america. we found a deep sense of sadness here, a quiet desperation. >> if i focus on the problems, then it's just -- it's too hard to go on. >> reporter: here there was a bed for the girls, a couch for her. and when it was vital, when she had to go out -- >> it's 7:35 now. and i'm going to work. >> reporter: she was a scientist once. she specialized in cancer
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research. she cleaned toilets now. and once in a while someone paid her for an english lesson. >> when i'm better. >> when i'm better. >> we've had to change our lifestyle a little bit. we don't go out to eat, and we just don't buy little things or -- you know, just the basics and necessities. >> what is that like for you? >> i have two lives, really. one is this normal me, i'm this american, you know, this english teacher traveling around europe. the other is the reality. i'm a refugee with my girls. >> reporter: but she'd become used to this life, hiding, one eye over her shoulder. >> i tried to put that out of my head. you can't function like that on a day-to-day basis. >> can you use your real name? >> i had to use my passport, my real name. >> reporter: had to, she said, to apply for work. >> hello, sweetie. >> reporter: but just as she evaded the authorities, she also dodged the inevitable questions from her daughters' teachers, from administrators at the school. she knew a day was coming when she couldn't avoid them anymore. >> i just dread when there's
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another time, you know, when the school's going to ask about their documents. >> reporter: and privately, frequently, she was both sad -- >> i don't know what to do. >> reporter: -- and afraid. >> i can't go around and cry around my kids. okay. we'll have to get ready to go. >> reporter: only linda's parents, karen and sam, knew where she really was. they talked by skype. >> grandpa. >> hello. >> reporter: sent care packages for their granddaughters. and having financed their daughter's life on the run, they struggled with worry and debt. there's been a considerable amount of personal sacrifice the two of you have gone through. >> yes. >> how much has this cost you? >> everything we own and more. we mortgaged our home. >> now you're up to your ears in debt. >> we're over our ears.
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yes. yeah. we're about to go under. >> reporter: linda told "dateline" the girls rarely asked about their dad and she avoided talking about him. but even if she wished she could, linda could hardly ignore ozgur or the past. once he discovered linda had fled turkey with the girls, ozgur filed charges, accusing her of kidnapping her own children. >> if the government found out about the issues about me, you know, they might just deport us from the country. you know, i can't think about it. i can't. i can't think about it. i just can't. >> reporter: but of course that is exactly what she did all the time, every day. >> i absolutely hate the idea of having to uproot again and go someplace else and start again. >> reporter: but was ozgur even at this moment looking for them? how far would he go to get his little girls back? >> there's no end in sight.
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you know? we have to hide somewhere again, if my husband was coming after us again or something. >> reporter: oh, but something was coming all right. it was getting very close now. though here in her secret hiding place she could have no idea as we spoke just what it was going to be. coming up -- high-powered help. but will they be released from legal limbo? >> we have two kids, two little girls that are totally innocent. and later on "dateline" -- a surprising admission from accused killer joran van der sloot. >> you start to think, okay, well, if you want something, then -- then i'll tell you whatever you want to hear. >> the exclusive prison interview. okay, who's gonna 2 for 20 with dad?
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we're definitely in a limbo situation. definitely. it's not good. no. it's untenable. how can you stay in this situation? >> sorry. >> reporter: for 2 1/2 years they've been living in hiding, running from an ex-husband she'd accused of sex abuse, running from the law. linda yaman and her two little girls, somewhere in europe, no passports to take them to america. >> we're americans. we shouldn't go back to turkey. you go back to turkey, i go to prison. >> reporter: she knowingly abducted her children. she claims she had no choice. so is ozgur, her ex-husband, a
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danger to the girls, as she claims? is he guilty of sex abuse in not just one but three turkish courts have said no, he is not. when you had a chance to think, would i really want to run or not? you'd do it again? >> i'd do it again. sure. >> when we asked ozgur for an interview, he thanked us for the offer but declined. he maintained his innocence. in e-mails he called his ex-wife's allegations dreadful and nasty and :íltfp&(8
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>> i cannot talk about that. it's privacy. but we did have some abuse in our family. a certain amount. >> well, quite a bit, actually, i think, wasn't it? i mean, it went on for years. >> as far as affecting my relationship or any of our family members, it was never a part of our lives. >> reporter: last year a high-profile law firm in boston, bingham mccutcheon, took on linda's case pro bono. they filed an appeal with the u.s. state department on behalf of linda and the girls, asking the u.s. government to reconsider issuing the girls passports without requiring ozgur's consent. her attorneys, beth bowland and david penn, cited humanitarian concerns. >> we have two girls, two little girls, that are totally innocent. we have a mom who is faced with a decision that no mom should ever be faced with, which is to
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stay there in turkey and try to work things out with a system that wasn't listening to her. she gave up everything to leave the country with them. and now they found themselves as legal nomads. >> reporter: her lawyers claim that even though linda's case reached the turkish supreme court she was railroaded by the turkish legal system. experts who contended she imagined abuse where none existed were not cross-examined, said the lawyers. they also claimed that ozgur's position as a professor prejudiced the court. >> he holds a very prestigious position in their society. and you read the court's opinion, it's very clear. it says, "we find it hard to believe that someone of his stature and status would be able to do such a thing." >> reporter: in december, in a closed hearing, the u.s. state department considered their arguments and heard linda's case for special passports. >> these girls have been horribly victimized. they need to live normal lives. >> reporter: the case has presented a thorny diplomatic dilemma for the state department.
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behind it a case of he said/she said. and turkey is a key u.s. ally. on march 15th the u.s. state department issued its final decision. it said it found no fault with the turkish court's decision. it warned linda it will not help her evade turkish legal authorities. so another crushing defeat? well, no. because at the conclusion of what appeared to be a stern lecture the answer was yes. the state department agreed to issue the girls temporary u.s. passports. why? because, said the state department, none of it was their fault and they shouldn't have to live in hiding illegally. >> this is wonderful. it's a dream come true. >> reporter: and so for all her worry it was not the police, not arrest, but relief that came to this drab little european hideout. and here we watched as linda and the girls prepared for the trip home. >> some things you have to leave behind.
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but i got the most important things. the girls. >> reporter: and for the little girls, excitement. then this past april she walked with her girls into a u.s. consular office in europe, and at the airport the next day an official handed over temporary passports for the girls, valid for just five days. >> look, mommy. >> yeah. >> something on the plane opened. >> reporter: a few hours later they landed in the u.s. for the first time in six years. >> -- airlines welcomes you to the united states. >> reporter: no happy family reunion at the airport, though. instead, linda was greeted by lawyers. >> we're just ecstatic to have her here and to know that the kids would be safe. it's a great day. >> reporter: here they were, 6 and 8, in hiding or turmoil for most of their lives. they hadn't spoken with or seen their own father for three years. and it wasn't over yet. after all, nothing prevents ozgur from pursuing his case in


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